There's a particular danger in singing old hymns, ye heathen. That is, some words from them times don't mean what they mean today. And wouldn't you know it, just the other night, your sanctified sensei was givin' praises to the Lord when he stumbled into a saying that made him feel a little squeamish.
The OCeeker don't mean to be graphic and all, but dagnabbit, while amongst the faithful, he told the Lord he was blessed “underneath Thy rod.” Now, divine or not, the OCeeker ain't never been blessed by anyone else's rod. The phrase of praise was found in a songbook at The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Tustin.
And that's where the OCeeker found himself on a recent Wednesday night.
Slip slidin' away
Mary Baker Eddy, a New Hampshire native with Congregationalist roots, discovered Christian Science after supposedly slipping and falling on a Lynn, Mass. sidewalk on Feb. 1, 1866. And we all know that God goes wrong in the hands of a woman. Eddy, a sickly person from her youth, was allegedly given just three days to live. But as the parable goes, she read Matthew 9:2, about Jesus healing a paralytic, and was made whole by the Great Physician.
Eddy conducted some Bible research to explain her healing, and thus discovered Christian Science. In 1875, she codified her findings in the book “Science and Health,” updated later as “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures.” She established her church in Boston in 1879, with an emphasis on divine healing. As she wrote in “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures”: “It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in his healing.”
The Apostle Paul must've hiccupped a heresy when he told Timothy, his protege, to take a little wine for his stomach and “frequent illnesses.” Eddy she also rejected the notion that Jesus Christ is theanthropos, the God man. After a life filled with lawsuits, sickness and metaphysics, Eddy's last prayer evidently was unanswered, and she died in 1910.
Ye heathen can judge for yourselves whether Christian Science is either, both or neither. Her spiritual descendents in Tustin seem nice.
The OCeeker arrived in Eddyburg at 7:30 p.m. Greeted at the door by a friendly lady, the OCeeker took his place among eight golden girls and three amigos. We all sat in chairs that appeared to be lifted from the set of All in the Family, in a bright meeting room filled with bookshelves, a large desk and a piano. One amigo tickled the ivories while we sang hymns. A older lady–with white hair, a multi-colored blouse and glasses–whose name the OCeeker didn't get sat behind the desk and led the meeting. It was testimony night at the church, a time to share the wonder-working power of God.
After a couple hymns, we meditated while the lady behind the desk read several passages from the Bible, and teachings from Eddy. There also was a moment of silent prayer and reflection, which was a nice touch. When regular Christians do prayer, it's like that moment in the night when the family is hungry and nobody wants to cook. Someone busts out the back of an envelope, takes everyone's order down, heads for Del Taco and dumps the request on a weary service worker. But prayer is a two-way conversation, gentle flock.
Legends of the falls
Nothing revelatory in the testimonies. No limbs restored or leprosy healed. But, a couple of gals told of how they had each, on separate occasions, fallen down and hit their knees kinda hard. And it was in those moments that God gave special insight into his relationship with his people.
“Jesus said, 'rise up and walk.'” one woman said.
Now, there are stereotypes that some sects have endured. Them Lutherans love them some beer. Them Pentecostals love them some snake-handling. Apparently, women of the Christian Science kind ain't too coordinated. When the OCeeker steps on a crack, he breaks his mama's back; when they step on a crack, they break their own backs and hear from God.
The fellas in the fellowship didn't share at all. One can't blame 'em. Fifty years of feminism, the neutering of American Christianity and belonging to a faith birthed by a crazy lady can make a man go mute.
Little silences in the meetings gave the OCeeker time to take a gander at the two free Sentinel magazines he picked up outside the church. Whoa, nelly! One contained an article titled “Free From Dark Sexual Thoughts.” In it, an anonymous writer said that after 25 years, God healed him of having pervy thoughts. We're talkin' pedophilia, people. Now, the OCeeker's dark sexual thoughts are limited to visions of jungle fever with eager and able adult babes. He ain't prayed for healing.
After a final hymn, the meeting closed. The OCeeker gave it five out of five patronizing grins. God's ways are not our ways, but one wonders why he always waits for crippling injuries to whip up a miracle.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Tustin meets every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and every Sunday at 10 a.m. at 12381 Newport Ave.; (714) 832-0302